Jan. 27, 2013
2013 Champion Challenge hosted by U.S. Lacrosse
Site: Orlando, Fla. (ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)
Score: Team USA 16, Northwestern 9
Records: N/A (exhibition)
Next NU Event: Friday, Feb. 8 vs. Massachusetts 3 p.m. CT Los Angeles, Calif.
NOTE: Replays of today's game will air on ESPNU at 11 p.m. CT Sunday and 1:30 p.m CT Monday.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Before officially beginning its quest to defend its 2012 NCAA championship, Northwestern tested itself against the reigning world champions Sunday as it fell to the U.S. Women's National Team, 16-9, at the Champion Challenge in Orlando.
A tremendous first 10 minutes by the Wildcats had NU thinking upset before Team USA was able to find its groove offensively en route to the exhibition win. Still, the Wildcats defense gave their opponents fits all afternoon, with first-year starting GK Bridget Bianco stepping up in a big way with 12 saves -- many on Team USA 8-meter attempts -- to anchor the unit.
On offense, the senior trio of Taylor Thornton, Erin Fitzgerald and Amanda Macaluso each notched two goals while juniors Kara Mupo, Kelly Rich and Kat DeRonda accounted for the other three NU tallies. Alyssa Leonard was once again a force in the draw circle for the Wildcats, winning a would-be Northwestern school record 11 draw controls to help NU collect 14 of 27 draws on the day.
Northwestern came out focused and efficient on both ends of the field, forcing two saves by Team USA GK Devon Wills in the opening minutes before Thornton dodged down the right of the fan and fired home to put Northwestern in front 1-0.
NU bottled up the high-powered Team USA offense through the first 10 minutes, forcing multiple turnovers and receiving two enormous saves from Bianco on a pair of USA 8-meter attempts.
Just 24 seconds after Team USA netted its first goal, Macaluso had the answer when she dodged hard to her left across the fan and finished past Wills.
Team USA began to have more success finding room to operate on offense and assembled a 4-0 run, with former Wildcats Sarah Albrecht and Shannon Smith accounting for three of those four scores. Thornton ended the USA spurt with a rocket of a right-handed shot past Wills, cutting NU's deficit to 5-3 with 9:19 to play in the first half.
The senior national squad found a rhythm after that, extending its lead to 10-3 when Smith made a great grab on a high pass on the doorstep and turned it into her third goal of the game. The 'Cats ended the half on a high note, however, when Macaluso drew a foul and scored off the restart with just 1.1 seconds showing on the clock.
As it did in the first half, Northwestern struck first in the second when Mupo received a pass from Macaluso on her right hand before pivoting and firing for a lefty goal in front of the cage. After Team USA scored twice to set the score at 12-5, Bianco turned away two more 8-meter shots to keep the US squad at bay.
Fitzgerald then made her presence known with back-to-back goals, first coming across the fan to receive a pass from Ali Cassera and beating USA's Liz Hogan between the legs. She then scored off an 8-meter to bring the score to 14-7.
Continuing to fight for the full 60 minutes, Northwestern received an unassisted goal by DeRonda and an 8-meter tally by Rich to bring the final score to 16-9 in Team USA's favor.
Former Northwestern All-American and assistant coach Lindsey Munday recorded one goal and three assists and was named MVP of the Champion Challenge on the women's side.
In less than two weeks, Northwestern will officially get underway in 2013 with a season-opening road trip to Los Angeles less than two weeks from Sunday. The Wildcats meet Massachusetts at 5 p.m. CT on Friday, Feb. 8, before meeting Division I newcomer Southern Cal -- under Munday's stewardship -- the following day in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Northwestern vs. Team USA -- NU Point-Scorers
Amanda Macaluso -- 2 goals, 1 assist
Taylor Thornton -- 2 goals
Erin Fitzgerald -- 2 goals
Kara Mupo -- 1 goal
Kat DeRonda -- 1 goal
Kelly Rich -- 1 goal
Ali Cassera -- 1 assist
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